The Occupy Wall Street movement has found its way to the City of Oaks with the local spin-off movement, Occupy Raleigh, set to start their occupation this Saturday at 11am. Occupy Raleigh’s facilitators estimate that over 1,000 people will attend the protest rally on the State Capitol grounds that officially kicks of Occupy Raleigh. Contingents of “occupiers” are expected to remain after the initial protest to set up camp and exercise their free speech rights in the area indefinitely.
There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about Occupy Wall Street, both on cable news and online. While their grievances are many, Occupy Wall Street, as described by those camping out in Zuccotti Park is:
“…a horizontally organized resistance movement employing the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic to restore democracy in America. We use a tool known as a "people's assembly" to facilitate collective decision making in an open, participatory and non-binding manner. We call ours the NYC General Assembly and we welcome people from all colors, genders and beliefs to attend our daily assemblies.”
They are a leaderless group of citizens dedicated to bringing about change through peaceful and non-violent protests. Decisions are made as a group using direct democracy and consensus building instead of a simple majority. Anyone in the group can block a proposal at any time, for any reason. While this isn’t the easiest way to find common ground, it ensures that typically marginalized segments of society are able to participate as equals and that the majority does not oppress the opinions and beliefs of the minority.
Their experiment with direct democracy and non-violent protest has spread around the world with approximately 1,500 protests already taking place or planned to start this month, according to OccupyTogether.org. The Occupy Wall Street movement was galvanized by the arrest of around 800 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge last week and has continued to draw support from many who felt that the tactics used by the NYPD were brutal and premeditated. (Search YouTube for a growing video library documenting police brutality against peaceful protesters).
The NYC General Assembly recently released a list of grievances which they titled, The Declaration of the Occupation of NYC. While this document is inspiring, the uniting themes behind all of the occupy protests can be simplified into several key points:
Disclaimer: The above are simply one Occupy Wall Street supporter’s opinions and observations. In no way am I a spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Raleigh and there are likely many within the movement that would disagree with the above themes. One of the challenges and blessings when discussing the movement is that there are no spokespeople or list of talking points. Other important aspects I would be remiss to not include are non-violence and peaceful protest, this movement is a-political and welcomes and accepts all viewpoints.
For the past 30 years, real wages have remained stagnant while CEO pay has risen unabated. The CEO of Walmart makes an average employee’s annual salary every hour. If real wages rose at the same rate as CEO pay over the past 30 years the minimum wage would be around $30/hr . It’s important to note that this slide continued under both Republican and Democratic Congresses and Presidents. Obama’s top supporter in '08? The financial industry. Bush’s top supporter in '04? The financial industry. Both sides are bought and both parties are responsible for supporting a system that allows billions of dollars in special interest and lobbying money to flow into Washington. The politicians in Washington no longer support their constituents; rather, they support those special interests that will get them re-elected.
UPDATE: 48 hours after Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the protesters could stay in Zuccotti park indefinitely; he completely flip-flopped and announced the eviction of the protesters this morning for “cleaning purposes”. In an unprecedented show of support and solidarity an international social media blitz produced an agreement with Brooksfield Properties, the owners of the park avoiding the possibility of forced eviction by the NYPD. As of 7am no eviction has occured.